August 19, 2011

Supercookies Are Super Invasive

You're alone sitting at the computer surfing the web, you're looking up health, financial, entertainment, shopping, and other personal things.

You feel comfortable doing your have your privacy and can be yourself without someone looking over your shoulder.

But is the sense of safety real or an illusion?

For the most part, when we are online, we are not safe or in private.

Like at work, where you get the warning that you are being monitored, when you are browsing the Internet, your actions are being tracked site by site (but this is done without warning)--by cookies--or data packets exchanged between web servers and user's browsers.

On the plus side cookies are used for identification, authentication, preferences, and maintaining shopping cart contents; but on the negative side, they are installed on users computers to track your activities online.

The Wall Street Journal (18 August 2011) reports that now there are Supercookies! and "history stealing."

- Supercookies are not cookies with that can fly or lift locatives, but rather they are more difficult to locate and get rid off your computer, so they track your activities, but are hidden in different places such as in the web browsers cache.

- "History stealing" is done when you visit certain websites, and they use software to mine you web browser history to determine where you've visited and then use that to for example, target advertising at you. Imagine though what other profiling can be compiled by categorizing and analyzing your browsing history in aggregate.

Currently, the online ad industry has established self-imposed guidelines to supposedly protect privacy, but they seem wholly inadequate such as "collecting health and financial data about individuals is permissible as long as the data don't contain financial-account numbers, Social Security numbers, pharmaceutical prescriptions or medical records." But knowing people's household finances, credit histories, and personal medical histories is okay--by whose standard?

According to the WSJ, web tracking is not only alive and well, but flourishing with "80% of online display ads are based on tracking data."
Why should anyone have the ability to track our personal web surfing?

We don't need ads targeted at us--we are not targets! We are very capable of searching online for what we what we are interested in and when we are interested in it--thank you!

Session cookies that expire at the end of ones web browsing for session management is one thing; but persistent cookies that collect and mine your personal data--that's should be a definite no-no.

Like with the advertisements that come unwanted in the traditional mailbox and get routinely and speedily placed in the garbage, online advertisements that are based on intrusive website tracking is not only a nuisance, but a violation of our privacy--and should be trashed as a concept and a practice.


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